Discreetly hidden on a leafy road in the Dandenong Ranges is Jacky Winter Gardens, a project bursting with heart and soul from Jeremy Wortsman of Melbourne agency The Jacky Winter Group and his partner, writer and editor, Lorelei Vashti.
Parking at the top of a steep slope, a windy path guides you through a garden that is abundant with life. Apple trees, peaches and feijoas are serendipitously dotted along as you find your way to a blue front door with a glass panel, hand painted by Sydney signwriter Will Lynes. Simply hover your hand over a sleek black keypad and it magically illuminates. A unique code is entered (provided on booking) and you're in!
Gumboots and binoculars occupy the entrance leading to an open kitchen and dining area, set upon a backdrop of custom wallpaper by Marc Martin. It's forest theme fits the lush surroundings and is just a taste of the fabulous creatives who contributed to the space.
Keeping it local, interior architect Sarah Trotter was given the task to restore the early twentieth century house in to an intimate blank canvas that has been nourished by a collective of Jacky Winter artists. Paper lampshades by Benja Harney, artworks by Kate Banazi, Ken Taylor and Craig Redman and an oversized Jenga set by Georgia Perrty perfectly frame designer furniture. Perhaps the most stunning is a custom map illustration of Jacky Winter Gardens by James Gulliver Hancock, with guests receiving their own A2 print to take home.
No detail has been overlooked in the kitchen, with a shiny Smeg toaster and Wusthof knives to prep the fresh loaf of sourdough provided (weekend bookings only). Market Lane coffee and a machine is on hand to curb caffeine cravings and thick cut bacon, eggs and milk will have you whipping up breakfast in no time.
West Elm cutlery, ceramic bowls and plates and Best Made Co enamel cups generously fill shelves and drawers. Oranges are overflowing for juicing and if you're keen to cook outdoors there's a Weber Baby Q for balmy, garden barbecues.
The bedroom, which flows on from the library, is designed with relaxation and rejuvenation in mind. The king sized bed (firm) is sumptuous and kitted out with Jardan linens. Waffle-knit turkish robes from Pottery Barn (a long time robe favourite) carry the Jacky Winter Gardens crest and really say "leave your clothes at home, I'm all you need". Here, there's direct access to a porch and the back garden (with a creek).
The opulent bathroom is endlessly tiled in pale blue, with a deep soaking tub and deluge shower head. A bowl brimming with bath salts is perched tub-side and dappled light spills through large windows, making it one of the most tranquil rooms in the house.
An iPad, Sonos, Netflix and Wifi are on tap and unlimited. From controlling music in each room, to streaming the latest episodes of House of Cards, you may be up in the hills but you are by no means disconnected. It's these mod cons that complete Jacky Winter Gardens for the fussiest of traveller.
If you're keen to explore, a manual compiled by Jeremy and Lorelei sits proudly in the lounge, containing their expertise of the area they've grown to love. Each artwork, appliance and feature of the house has been meticulously documented and there is a guide to Belgrave and it's neighbouring surrounds with hotspots, cafes, butchers, cinemas and walks.
As part of the concept and one of the most admirable aspects of Jacky Winter Gardens is it's commitment to giving back to the creative community. A separate studio is prime space for an implemented artist residency program. Each month for five days, an artist can make Jacky Winter Gardens their home to work on a creative project with applications open to all commercial artists.
There are few guesthouse executed with such immaculate attention to detail, let alone a project that gives back and immerses itself in it's local culture. Jacky Winter Gardens transcends private accommodation, it is a sanctuary.
FEEL: Forest retreat.
ROOM PICK: The house is yours.
WIFI: Yes and it's fast!
RATES: Weekday rates at $295 AUD p/n, weekends $375 AUD p/n.
IN HOUSE: Towels, bath soap, shampoo, conditioner, bath salts, robes, cutlery, crockery, cooking utensils, iPad, Sonos, TV, Netflix, gumboots, umbrellas, binoculars, BBQ, local guide.
MINI BAR: Weekend bookings include a loaf of bread, eggs, milk, butter, jam, bacon, oranges.
GETTING THERE: Belgrave is a 30 minute drive from Melbourne CBD.
I stayed as a guest of Jacky Winter Gardens.